Coconut milk and coconut water are not the same. Coconut water is the thinner liquid found inside the coconut, while the milk is an extracted product made by blending together the coconut meat with water. Coconut contains a healthy amount of fat that will rise to the top in a can, and can be used much like cream, leaving the lighter liquid below. You may shake the can of coconut milk to combine, or used in the separated state. |
Coconut milk is a very versatile product, and these days it is being used in many exciting ways. The rise of interest in Indian and Thai styles of cooking has made the product more readily available in groceries. Now so easily found, chefs are using it to invent wonderful new recipes. Some years ago it was almost impossible to find cans of coconut milk in a store, and trying to cook an Indian or Thai dish was not easy to manage, unless you lived in a larger city where it was routinely stocked. Usually, it was only found in a health food store. Now, its availability has opened new doors.
One of my favorite cuisines is Indian, so finding sources for coconut milk has been imperative for many years. It is interesting to note how a product suddenly crosses that invisible measure, where a product that once was almost unknown or rarely kept, suddenly becomes so useful it becomes nearly a panic situation to find none on the pantry shelf. These days, it is very important to keep on hand, and now for many more things than just Indian curries.
There is much discussion on the benefits of coconut milk, coconut oil and coconut water. Obviously the coconut water is the lowest in fat, and is the pure liquid from the center of the nut. It is high in potassium and is a great thirst quencher, helping replenish some nutrients depleted during exercise. Coconut milk is very high in saturated fat, but the discussion on this topic is that while it is saturated fat, it is of vegetable origin like avocado, and therefore healthier than saturated fats from a meat product. It does raise good cholesterol, and proponents claim that this kind of fat is helpful in weight loss, lowering overall cholesterol, lubricating joints and so on. It is very high in fiber, so drinking even a small amount will keep one feeling full for a long time.
If one is lucky enough to live in a place where coconuts grow, there is access to young coconuts as well as mature. A young coconut has a very large amount of water inside, but very little of what is later on the meat of the coconut. In young coconuts, the meat is a jelly like substance that can be easily scraped out and used. Combining the jellied coconut meat with the water and adding some sugar or sweetener to taste was a common beverage when living in Guatemala. Even more common were the street vendors of young coconuts. The top was lopped off of a very young coconut, a straw inserted and off you went with a perfect, all natural thirst quenching drink.
Some ideas for using coconut milk are of course in curry type dishes, where the sauce benefits from the milky and flavorful addition. Meatless Thai or Indian recipes can be made Vegan by using coconut milk as a creamy agent. Use coconut milk as a substitute for the oil and liquids called for in a cake mix. It can be used in place of milk to make rice pudding or creme brule. Some people use it as a milk substitute over their cereal, though it may need thinning down for this use. It can be used instead of cream in coffee or tea, or to make hot chocolate.
If the high caloric count is a concern, look for a lower or fat free version of coconut milk. My personal opinion is that coconuts are a natural and beneficial food. Adding nothing, like other fruits and nuts, it is a delicious and quite nutritious drink or food. No artificial processing is needed to have all the health benefits. Make an informed decision, but do try out coconut milk in your diet.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey. You will find many more recipes and helpful tips on my web site. I am on Facebook at A Harmony of Flavors and share a recipe or tip each day to the fans that have liked my site or visit my Web site http://www.aharmonyofflavors.com or my Blog at http://www.aharmonyofflavors.blogspot.com I hope to see you there soon.
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